Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

August 4, 2013

Editorial: DEQ bungled Benzie 'brine' application

So what if some firm did somethingreally, really bad to the local environment, like spread liquid industrial waste containing known carcinogens on rural roads that will possibly - almost certainly - leach into farm fields and drinking water wells.

Big trouble from the state, right? Not in Michigan. Or in Benzie County, at least.

Kalkaska-based oil field company Team Services LLC spread 300,000 gallons of oil field brine on 121 miles of Benzie County roads that testing has revealed exceeded state limits for Benzene, Toluene, and other toxins; in some cases the levels were 1,000 times more than the law allows.

Tests showed benzene, a known carcinogen, at 28,000 micrograms per liter; toluene, a toxin, came in at 1 million micrograms per liter; and the solvents ethylbenzene and xylenes tested at 130,000 and 750,000 micrograms per liter, respectively.

The state limit for oil field brine is 1,000 micrograms per liter for each component. Benzene was under the state limit for direct contact, but above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit for drinking water, which is 5 micrograms per liter.

Incredibly, though, the state Department of Environmental Quality gave Team Services LLC a relative slap on the wrist, if that. The DEQ told the company to do a self-investigation and clean up the mess. And, by the way, don’t do it again. And then DNR officials refused to talk about it.

Rick Henderson, a supervisor for the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals, declined comment and referred all questions to a DEQ spokesman who did not return calls.

The DEQ did tell Team Services to provide a work plan to show how the company will test roads to determine if they no longer pose a threat to groundwater or direct contact.

But given the DEQ’s laissez faire attitude so far, what will happen if that testing shows the chemicals do, indeed pose a threat to groundwater or to direct contact. And how is it that Team Services is being allowed to do the testing in the first place? And who will trust that testing?

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